Discovering the World – and Yourself

Recently, we came across an article that emphasized a very important point: “gap years are really useful for two purposes: finding yourself and optimizing yourself. But both of these things take some intentional work – they don’t just happen automatically.”

We can wax poetic about how a gap year is a great way to find yourself, and it’s true! But it’s also very true that things won’t just fall perfectly into place without any effort on your own part. You have to be mindful about how your gap year is influencing you, and how you want it to influence you. One way to do this is to set goals, and keep track of their progress in a journal.

Journaling at Sunset Costa Rica

It’s ok if your goals aren’t super specific; it’s hard to know exactly what you’ll learn or like. So build that in when you’re forming them! You can set skills-based goals like: learn 10 words in a new language, and keep track of the ones you learned and how you used them, or find an outrageous skill that you’re really good at (maybe you’ll surprise yourself with bicycle maintenance or at clown school). You can set cultural goals: try 10 new foods and write about what they were, how they’re made, and whether you liked them; talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to and write down their life stories; do a deep dive into the history behind 5 cities or locations that you felt a particular connection to.

Winterline Global Skills Paris Geolas

This approach has two purposes. First, by setting goals, you’re setting a base expectation of what your gap year will entail. Use your itinerary to form these, and you can always reach out to a staff member of your program if you’re unsure whether your goals are accurate or attainable. Setting goals will also give you direction and ambition: when a plate of food is set in front of you that isn’t what you consider appetizing, remember you made a promise to yourself to try it. When you have a free day and the options are to hang out around the house or explore the local scene, challenge yourself to take advantage of the new opportunity.

Second, by journaling about your experiences (can you tell this is something I’m passionate about?) you’ll be able to reduce the clutter in your head while preserving your thoughts, experiences, and memories as they are right now. By thinking of the future and reflecting on your experiences as they happen, you’ll be able to reconsider your expectations, your interests, your likes and dislikes – which will lead you down the path of self-discovery.

And of course, along with discovering your true self comes the opportunity to become your best self. Whether you’re headed to college or work after your gap year, there will be some unexpected challenges. But you can use your newly learned skills to help smooth the transition. When you’re quite literally traveling across the world, you’ll develop task and time management skills that will allow you to juggle a workload. You can cultivate these skills intentionally by familiarizing yourself with a planner or calendar – paper or digital, your choice! Scheduling will teach you to make time for what’s most important to you, therefore giving you the chance to reflect on your own passions and priorities.

Your gap year shouldn’t be all fun or all work, but instead a healthy mix of both. And don’t forget, they can (and will!) overlap! So don’t worry, because things will work out, but don’t let your trip pass you by without making the most of it, either.

Photo Timeline: Winterline 18-19

Our students are busy at bootcamp here in Boston, so with graduation quickly approaching, we thought now was the perfect time to look back on just how far our students have come. See it all from the beginning to now, 9 months, 10 countries, 100 skills, and countless memories and friends later.

There are so many good pictures from this year, and it was hard to narrow down which to include! Look back on all of our favorite photos and travel highlights to see the Photos of the Week from the past few months.


Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

GET STARTED


Orientation and NOLS

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Becky, Katie, and Cristina at NOLS | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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On the trails | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Christian, Maria, and Ben at orientation | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Orientation | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Costa Rica

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Scuba diving | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Going surfing | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Maria and Luc painting crosswalks | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Building at Rancho Mastatal | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Panama

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Getting dirty | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Working on woodcutting skills | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Ivan at the Panama Canal | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Group photo | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Thailand

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At the Elephant Sanctuary | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Enjoying the meal cooked at BaiPai Thai Cooking School | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Micah found a crab | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Squad 2 | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Cambodia

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Circus school | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Taking in the waterfall | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Caedon and Yeukai at a temple | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Caedon at Phare Circus School | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

India

Making pottery | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Silhouettes | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Christian and Nora doing yoga | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Ivan checking out the view | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Italy

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Tile mosaics | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Mask making | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Stella and her mask | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Friends in Venice | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Germany

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BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Girls in Germany | Photo By: Emma Mays
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BMW Driving Experience | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Austria

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Austria | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Posing in Austria | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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Scooters in Austria | Photo By: Nora Turner

Czech Republic

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Prague | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Linnea, Yeukai, and Emma in Prague | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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Ivan and Emma hanging around | Photo By: Maria O’Neal

Also, be sure to check out the videos that Abby made! You can get an inside look at Trimester 1:

and Trimesters 2 and 3:

Interested in having these experiences for yourself? Apply today to visit on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

When Language Fails: My Homestay in Panama

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A tap of the toes; a spin of the heel; a whirl of red satin.

We arrived in the small mountain town of Piedras Gordas to the sound of traditional Panamanian music and the sight of dancers in traditional dress. Gathered in the community center, several locals had interrupted their daily routines to celebrate our arrival with song and dance. The festive welcome was as unexpected as it was heartwarming. Following their performance, we had our first interactions with the people that welcomed us – sixteen young adults from all over the world – into their very own homes.

Although the mountain scenery of the town was gorgeous, our intentions were far from touristic.  As part of an 8-day homestay program, our goal was to immerse ourselves in the culture of our hosts while working with local entrepreneurs to improve the community. We spent most mornings and evenings with our host families while taking part in workshops led by ThinkImpact during the day. Topics of instruction ranged from design-thinking and asset analysis to rapid prototyping and hands-on work with local entrepreneurs.

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Exploring the Mountains of Piedras Gordas | Photo By: Benjamin Kilimnik

Behold Its Feathers

When a community is not used to receiving foreigners, interacting with locals can be a challenging ordeal. At times, while exploring the town of Piedras Gordas, I felt treated somewhat like an exotic bird: observed with curiosity by everyone I passed, but always kept at a distance. For someone with very basic Spanish skills like mine, it felt very intimidating to start conversations with strangers in a community I barely knew – especially with all eyes focused on me.

Only gradually did I realize that the key to breaking the communication barrier was to stop acting the part of the bird. Instead of staying undercover, I swallowed my shyness and tried to be as open and obvious as possible, starting conversations or non-verbal interactions whenever possible. By actively going against their expectations I normalized my presence. Over time – i.e. many clunky interactions later – I stopped being viewed as this mysterious person and became more approachable for some members of the community.

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My Host Family’s Pet Turkey | Photo By: Benjamin Kilimnik

This same tactic also applied to interactions with my host family, whom I spent the majority of my time with. For the entire 8 days, I had the opportunity to stay in the cosy home of Señor Onecimo and his wife Señora Edith, together with 3 fellow Winterliners: Micah, Shayan and Noah. Despite our vastly different backgrounds and cultures, our host familia welcomed our mix-match group of two Americans, one Italian and one German with open arms. On the day we arrived, Onecimo, Edith and their eldest son Victor stayed up long into the night to talk with us – offering us fruits all the while – despite having to get up early the next morning. In my eyes, these gestures conveyed a curiosity and openness that really set the tone for my homestay experience.

How to Talk without Speaking

It was through interactions with my host family that I came to another realization. Although I expanded my knowledge of Spanish vocabulary and Panamanian slang immensely, I came to realize that – beyond some key vocabulary – communication took on another dimension. More often than not, I found that my actions did most of the talking. Be it while grinding coffee, playing card games, working on the farm or preparing dinner, each activity and interaction left me knowing a bit more about Panamanian customs and the lives of my hosts.

The most important phrase I learned did not involve the bathroom, food or any basic necessities; it was something far more general: “cómo puedo ayudar?“ or “how can I help?“. This simple phrase made it so much easier for me to take part in their daily routine. Instead of watching from a distance, I became personally involved in everything from cooking to woodworking, absorbing Panamanian customs along the way. Within days, my host family treated me less like a hotel guest from abroad, and more like a long-lost, inarticulate cousin. The more time I spent participating and being curious, the easier it was to connect with the family.

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Shayan, Micah and I decided to celebrate Edith’s birthday by baking homemade banana bread. (Or, as Edith’s 6-year-old grandson affectionately called it: “la torta gringo“) | Video By: Benjamin Kilimnik

The perhaps most challenging aspect of my homestay was overcoming the feeling of shyness that kept me from taking risks in social situations. Only by accepting the misunderstandings and awkward moments that inevitably arose when I tried to communicate was I able to truly rise out of my comfort zone and learn from my mistakes. A prime example: A few days into my homestay, I realized that instead of responding to explanations with “I understand“ in Spanish, I had been saying “me entiendo“ or “I understand me“ the entire time. If I hadn’t sought out those explanations and more opportunities to speak Spanish in the first place, that realization may never have come…

It is still mind-blowing to me that even though my Spanish skills were basic at best, I was able to interact with and learn so much from mi familia. Even weeks after the experience, I still feel indebted to these incredible people who welcomed me into their home while treating me with such kindness and curiosity.

Lessons from Roadtrip Nation: Skills Powered

In this hour-long documentary “Skills Powered” from Roadtrip Nation, three young adults explore the idea of using their skill sets on a 21 day, 3200 mile cross-country trip. In some ways, the road trip that Alex, Ryan, and Shyane set out upon is like a condensed version of a Winterline gap year, though they focus solely upon tradework.

Who are the travelers?

The documentary begins with a quick introduction to the three young adults and their reasoning for joining this trip.

23 year old Alex went to college on a soccer scholarship. However, after an injury he’s unsure what to do with his life. “I want to try everything,” he boasts. “I’m going to be a sponge for this trip.”

Ryan is 24, working in a job he doesn’t love. Ryan brings up a point that many people struggle with: “for a lot of us, a four year degree just isn’t feasible.” And as he’s going to learn, while college can be a fantastic investment, it isn’t necessary for every person in every job. “A cubicle seems like a jail cell to me,” Ryan tells the camera, and “I think it’s kinda ridiculous that we expect an 18 year old kid to go into tens of thousands of dollars of debt without them having any idea of what it is that they want to do.” So desk job and college aside, Ryan is eager to find out what else is out there, especially the things beyond his imagination.

“There’s stuff out there that I’m sure I don’t even know exists, and it might be what I love to do but I have no idea that it’s even out there.” We agree with Ryan, and that’s exactly why skills are such an integral part of a Winterline gap year.

Finally, there’s 19 year old Shyane, who’s lost about what to do for a living. Shyane didn’t have a great family life growing up, is lost about what to do for a living, and is afraid to go back home and feel stuck again. So she turns her gaze outwards to explore the possibilities.

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First skill: welding

What lessons did they learn?

Along this trip, the three get to learn from individuals in a variety of trades: welding, woodshop, cooking and buffet management, solar energy and sustainable housing, animal behavior consultants at the Oklahoma City Zoo, engineers at the GE Aviation plant, scuba divers, small business owners, makeup and wardrobe consultants, musical technicians, and audio engineers. Some of the professionals loved the skill their whole life. Some didn’t even know it existed or give it a try until they were older. Some went to college, some didn’t.

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Lesson in woodworking

Each tradesperson had fantastic advice to give to Alex, Ryan, and Shyane. Though much of it follows the same vein, it can be hard to internalize this type of advice when you’ve grown up in a society that teaches the typical “high school, college, work” path is the right one. So we’re going to let each tradesperson tell you that this isn’t the one and only path you can take to success.

  • “You don’t have to feel like a failure if you don’t go to a four year university.” – Lisa Legohn, Welder
  • “You have to explore in order to find out what you really like, but don’t let opportunities pass you by. They’re not always going to come and knock, you have to go find them.” – Lisa Legohn, Welder
  • “You have to be in love with what you’re doing because life has many ups and downs but it’s that love that keeps you going everyday.” – Leticia Nunez, Chef

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    Leticia Nunez
  • “There’s a huge on-the-job training aspect that you can’t get in a book. You have to go out and start doing it and learning and making mistakes and building upon it.” – Kimberly Leser, Curator of Animal Behavior & Welfare
  • “If you think that you like something and you want to pursue it, pursue it. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a career for 20, 30 years and hate it and by the time you realize that, you’re ready to retire and you don’t have any other options. Now’s the time to explore that.” – Bill Lamp’l, Small Business Owner
  • “You have to look for your own opportunity. No one is going to hand it to you.” – Nancy Feldman, Blue Man Group Makeup Artist and Wardrobe Supervisor

And by the end of their trip, the young adults had taken this to heart. “I feel like I’m more awake,” Alex says about returning from this experience. Shyane felt as though she experienced an “aha” moment working with the seals at the zoo. After, she admits that there are way more options for work than she ever would have assumed. “I’ve always had a fear of just jumping into something. But worst case scenario, you just jump into something else.” She concludes. Finally, Ryan “didn’t even know that a lot of these careers existed. All I knew was to go to a four year university. [But] you can do trades and be successful and love what you do.”

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Hanging out with the seals

We highly recommend that you watch the documentary to see this growth for yourself, but if you don’t, take away a lesson from Alex, Shyane, and Ryan’s journey: there’s a whole world of possibilities out there, and you won’t know until you try them.

 

Photos of the Week 4/19

Welcome back to America, Winterliners! Our students are officially back, exploring our headquarters city of Boston. This week, they rounded off their experience in Europe by spending time in Prague. Check out the final images from their adventures across the pond.

Every Friday we share our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.


Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

GET STARTED


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Pink pigeons in Prague! | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Abby and Tyler in Prague | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Czech architecture | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Last day in Prague | Photo By: Christian Roch
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Making friends in Prague | Photo By: Christian Roch
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Not ready to leave Europe | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Linnea and Nora in Prague | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Stella and Nora in Prague | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Czech architecture | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Linnea and Paris in Prague | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Girl gang in Prague | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Fooling around | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Czech architecture | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Last day of spring break | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Pretty in Prague | Photo By: Stella Johnson

Interested in visiting Europe for yourself? Apply today to visit on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

New Student Spotlight: Veronica Allmon

The Winterline Global Skills Gap Year Program travels to 10 different countries over 9 months, where students learn 100 new life skills while traveling the world with their best friends.


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

 I first heard about it on social media. Someone I followed was doing this crazy 11 month gap year instead of college and I had to look into it from there. I searched and learned about so many options I had no idea about after high school.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I wasn’t sure about what I wanted my future career to be or what to study in college. After I learned how beneficial this program could be for me my mind was set. The opportunity to travel to so many places also drew me in.

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WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I’m excited about the photography and the culinary skills. I love to cook and am very interested in learning more about a potential career path for myself.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

After the program I plan to attend college, but I really have my options open right now as to anything else.

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HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

Yes, my favorite trip I literally just got back two days ago from. My family went to Costa Rica for spring break. We stayed in a treehouse in the jungle and saw so much wildlife everywhere it was breathtaking. We met so many wonderful people and grew closer as a family. We have done mission work there before and visited old friends which made the trip that much better.

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

I hope I gain a lot of helpful skills and knowledge for my future. I am also really hoping to make some friends I will cherish forever with all the memories we will have shared together.

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WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I would want them to know that I can not wait to meet them all! Also that I love adventure so if there’s anyone else out there find me and we can try new things together.

WHY WINTERLINE?

It was so unique compared to all the other programs. It had traveling, but what set it apart was the skills they are all so appealing some of the things on the list I might not ever get the chance to experience them if it wasn’t for this program.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

Weird but, one of my ears is different than the other.

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Photos of the Week 4/12

Our students are enjoying their spring break before reuniting to continue Trimester 3. Solo, in pairs, or with family, each student is off exploring the countries of Europe. From the United Kingdom to Greece and everywhere in between, these adventures are certainly worth sharing. See for yourself!

Every Friday we share our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.


Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

GET STARTED


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Exploring Ireland | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Irish architecture | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Abby and Tyler in London | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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London Bridge | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Crossing London Bridge | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Leaning Tower of Pisa | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
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Views in Italy | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
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Exploring Greece | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Taking in Italy | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
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Brittany and Jason surfing in Portugal | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Surfing in Portugal | Photo By: Brittany Lane
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Portuguese sunset | Photo By: Christian Roch
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Scuba diving in Portugal | Photo By: Christian Roch
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Graffiti | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Ivan and Paris in France | Photo By: Ivan Kuhn
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Graffiti | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Eiffel Tower, all lit up | Photo By: Ivan Kuhn
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Exploring Italy | Photo By: Linnea Mosier
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Graffiti | Photo By: Emma Mays
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Making friends | Photo By: Linnea Mosier
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Traveling in the UK | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Paris in Paris! | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Colorful Italy | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Leaning Tower of Pisa | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Phone eats first | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Architecture in Prague | Photo By: Tyler Trout
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Practicing photography skills | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Views of the Blue Hole | Photo By: Micah Romaner
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Soaking in the beauty | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Posing in Prague | Photo By: Tyler Trout
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Looking out on the ocean | Photo By: Tyler Trout

 

Interested in visiting Europe for yourself? Apply today to visit on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

New Student Spotlight: Alyssa Copham

The Winterline Global Skills Gap Year Program travels to 10 different countries over 9 months, where students learn 100 new life skills while traveling the world with their best friends.


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


winterline, gap year, alyssa copham
Meet Alyssa!

THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

Gap year programs were a new concept to me, a friend of mine who graduated a year prior and left on a four month trip to Australia, Fiji, and a few other places, she told me it was the trip of a lifetime. It inspired me to research programs, and take a year off to travel!

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

I chose to take a gap year for the possibility of growth, to find my passion and drive, and learn more about myself and what I want out of life!

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Taking in new sights!

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

I am most excited to learn how to properly scuba, and to explore new cultures.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

One of the biggest reasons for my choice of a gap year was to figure out my future, the idea of jumping into school and a career seemed unrealistic to me right now, and I’m hopeful at the end of my nine month journey I will have a better idea.

HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

I have a lot of travel experience, one of my favorite trips was a two week vacation to South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. I loved seeing all the culture and wildlife, and the warm weather away from Minnesota’s freezing cold is always a plus.  

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What a view.

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

In all honesty, I don’t think my expectations are what I will receive, truly, I don’t think you can even predict the growth and experiences you will have. My biggest hope is to have fun, learn, grow, and have the trip I’ll remember always.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I want my future peers to know I am outgoing, funny, and some say I have good advice. I believe in promises, laughter, and supporting and loving the people around me.

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Enjoying New York City.

WHY WINTERLINE?

One of the biggest impacts on my decision was the duration and the amount of places you go, I wanted the best experience I could have. When I decided a gap year, I decided a gap YEAR, I went all in and decided on a highly rated, highly recommended program. I also enjoyed the idea of the main focus of Winterline, mainly on growth and learning, and most importantly traveling, I chose it was right for what I wanted.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

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A modeling shot of Alyssa.

A fun fact about me is I love taking pictures, and exploring new places. I’m the type of person who wants to wake up at 6AM on vacation and just go for walks to see a new place, and get the most out of traveling I can.

What Not to Do on a Gap Year

For starters — Don’t pass up fried roadside spiders.

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And don’t take pictures like this…

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Okay, now we have our vitals covered, let’s get to some trivial topics…

Don’t try and save the world

Once in Cambodia, I remember getting off a bus, and heading to an orphanage for a day with some fellow backpackers.  We had a blast playing with the kids, singing songs, throwing them around like rag-dolls; Disney stuff, really.  Only later did I find out that those children weren’t even orphans — they were simply sent from the next village over, and essentially pimped out by their parents, in order to make money for their families. GULP.

You’re not going to be able to save the world.  And quite honestly, that’s not the point. It’s not even worth learning the hard way on this one, so trust me — no matter how many orphans you hug, you’re not going to fundamentally change the structural and systemic power dynamics that created the conditions that created that child’s life experience. That might sound harsh, I know; does that mean not to spread your love with everyone and all that you meet? NOOOOO!!!! Simply put — there are larger factors at play than you realize, and it’s a more valuable investment of time and energy, and considerably less ethically problematic when you decide to learn with the people you are serving rather than looking down on other folk and saying, “wow, these people really need help!” Sadly, that’s a lot of what today’s voluntourism culture proffers.

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On the flip side, nothing feels worse than getting to a place and realizing that they just wanted your money — people are exploiting this western notion of ‘community service’ in leaps and bounds, and ethical volunteering can be hard to come by unless you know what to look for. Now, that being said, I volunteered with such an organization, and still had an amazing experience, complete with everything that could have gone wrong (fights at the orphanage?  Ex-street kids dealing drugs?  You name it…). Many American students try to hammer out a certain number of service hours in order to pad their college resumes. If your heart isn’t in this, then you’re better off simply backpacking, taking language courses, or doing nature conservation work.

If you do want to volunteer, I would highly recommend teaching. Teaching will give you an appreciation for your own education that you’ll carry to the grave, and will place you in a position of authority; how you react in that position will teach you a great deal about yourself.

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Don’t just do the things that you’re already good at

Gap Years provide the perfect opportunity to stretch yourself a bit, in all directions — both horizontally and externally (out, and into the world), as well as ‘vertically,’ and internally (getting to know your depths). To grow the most, try picking up a new skill — maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to play guitar, or to how garden, or to how build a house, or you wanted sing in a choir; pick something that lights you up, and commit to pursuing it on your gap year (shameless plug: Winterline is THE MacDaddy at this!). This is your time to explore and challenge yourself — a time to really test your human potential. If you fail — great learning experience. Most likely though, you’ll discover parts of yourself that will amaze you 🙂

Don’t NOT play with every baby that you see

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So cute! Until they….

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Commit for an extended period of time

Moving quickly from one place to another is important, and fun, and wildly stimulating, and will teach you some critical life lessons, but really digging into a culture, place, and people requires a longer commitment. That’s why Peace Corps does two years. Think long-term relationship vs. one-night stand — which is more fulfilling? Which matters? Which truly has an impact? Exactly. So try to stay in one place for half a year — you’ll come to understand the people and develop deep relationships, while also coming up against the inevitable conflicts that occur while living in a community (and have to face them without having the option to just book it the next day).

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[caption: How are monks and waterfalls different? One rushes, the other doesn’t HAHAHHAHHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAH ]

Don’t run when things become difficult

Working in an all boys orphanage in Nepal, there were times when it seemed like everything was falling apart. My roommate, a Dutch fellow, who — atypically for Dutch folk, in my experience — was more interested in complaining and whining about everything than actually getting on with what we were there to do (work with the children), and it was a testosterone hive — the boys were between 8-14, and mass fights were constantly breaking out. They were largely unsupervised, and had no real role models or structures, other than school (which was laughable when I visited). It was complete chaos.

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[caption: okay, okay — complete chaos, and wicked fun]

I became a bit more in touch as a human being — these were kids, after all! Most interesting was to watch my reaction to want to leave the situation as soon as it became difficult. I highly recommend that when the going gets rough, you ask yourself whether you feel unsafe, or whether you just feel uncomfortable. More often, it’s the latter. And if you lean into that discomfort, you’ll grow in leaps and bounds — which is kinda what the whole gap year thing is about.

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Stay off the internet

Your favorite shows will all be there when you get back; Kathmandu will not. Similarly, save the google search → buzzfeed articles → pictures of cute kittens progression for a rainy day at home. Unplug from your electronic devices in general — constantly toting your smartphone so that you can ‘take pictures’ is an excuse; if you want to really take pictures, invest in a DSLR. The point isn’t punishment, it’s if you’re constantly sharing pictures of the delicious tapas that you’re eating in Spain, you’re not going to be savoring the taste, which is what you’ll ultimately remember the most — not the stylish photo.

Don’t just let your journey fade into the ether upon return…

During your Gap Year, you’re going to be transitioning from home to independence, high school to college, and adolescence into adulthood — –undergoing all three massive and pivotal transformations at the same time.  It’s unlike any other period of your life, offering the unique potential for a true rite of passage (hate to break it to you, but that’s something that college generally doesn’t offer you). Traveling will stretch your comfort zone and sense of the world and yourself like a hot air balloon, and coming back home can be a rather deflating experience (Really? Lame dad pun? #sorrynotsorry).

But don’t just let your experiences fade after sharing with friends and family — set up a talk at your school to share what you learned about other cultures, the world, and yourself. Share stories that will help people detect their own biases and the stereotypes that they are prone to making about the other parts of the world. Helpful would be to have a specific theme to your presentation — say you’re into archaeology and want to share a comparison between the bones in Mongolia, Africa, and Germany, and how that relates to mankind’s history, etc. Get creative! Apply to do a TEDx talk in your town! This will not only show college’s & /future employers that you take initiative and are a go-getter, but in working to articulate your experiences, you’re going to process your journey in a way that simply isn’t possible by writing about it or chatting with friends.

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[caption: I solemnly swear, to share my story upon return.]

 

Most importantly though…

Don’t let naysayers talk you out of going

I remember when I told most people what I was doing, hearing things like, “Oh, you’ll never go to college — that’s a terrible choice.” Hmm. Well… maybe I’ll just do it anyway, I thought. GOOD BOY — 90% of students who take a Gap Year return to college within a year. That’s almost 30 percentage points higher than the national average. The Gap Year has attracted a mythological skepticism bred from irrational fear. Don’t let other people get in the way of you making a decision to radically alter the quality of your life — let the haters hate, and go for it. Because if you don’t, chances are you’ll never look like this…

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Which is clearly what we all want out of life, am I right, or am I right?

Okay, MOST most importantly — this has been a lot of “don’ts.” What about the “Do’s”? Well there’s only one on that list..

DO let any and all monkey’s into your pants

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Have a wonderful journey 🙂

You can track Kevin’s footsteps on Instagram @voiceinsight, and on his blog–polychromasoul.blogspot.com.

Photos of the Week 4/5

Students from both of our cohorts are off on their Independent Study Projects (ISPs), which are like 8 day apprenticeships across Europe. This year, our student’s activities are ranging from scuba diving, photography, sailing, and surfing to restaurant management, butchery workshop, music recording, and swordsmanship! They’re honing these skills everywhere in Europe from the Spanish Canary Islands, to Greece, to Northern Ireland, and everywhere in between.

Every Friday we share our favorite photos and travel highlights from the past week. So be sure to check back again next Friday for another glimpse into our programs.


Ready for the adventure of a lifetime?

GET STARTED


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Barcelona beaches | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Spanish architecture | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Exploring the market | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Crème brûlée | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Graffiti art | Photo By: Abby Dulin
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Hungary at night | Photo By: Becky Quilkey
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Katie and Billy recreating art | Photo By: Katie Mitchell
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Austrian architecture | Photo By: Maria O’Neal
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Nora, Christian, and Stella having fun | Photo By: Nora Turner
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Paris’s ISP is snowboarding in the Alps | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Snowboarding views | Photo By: Paris Geolas
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Making time for four-legged friends | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Exploring Hungary | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Greek sunset | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Fresh catch | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Meal time | Photo By: Spencer Holtschult
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Views of Amsterdam | Photo By: Stella Johnson
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Tyler and Abby checking out graffiti | Photo By: Tyler Trout
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Tyler got to make a surfboard for his ISP | Photo By: Tyler Trout
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The finished surfboard | Photo By: Tyler Trout
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Tyler with his finished board | Photo By: Tyler Trout
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Fine dining | Photo By: Will Vesey
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Ready to eat | Photo By: Will Vesey
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Views from the Alps | Photo By: Paris Geolas

Interested in visiting Europe for yourself? Apply today to visit on our next Winterline gap year. To see more photos of our students in the field be sure to check out our InstagramTumblr, and Facebook.

New Student Spotlight: Alexandra Johansson

The Winterline Global Skills Gap Year Program travels to 10 different countries over 9 months, where students learn 100 new life skills while traveling the world with their best friends.


Thinking about taking a gap year too?

LEARN MORE


WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

I grew up in our capital city Oslo, south in Norway. Some years ago, my mum and dad decided to move to Lofoten so they could get closer to our family (and the nature!). Lofoten is basically a group of islands in the north part of Norway. It really has incredible nature, but also stormy weather.

Sometimes we get weather like this, then people are outside all day long:

But mostly, living by the northern sea, means:

THE CONCEPT OF A GAP YEAR PROGRAM IS STILL NEW FOR MANY STUDENTS. WHEN WERE YOU FIRST INTRODUCED TO THE IDEA OF TAKING A GAP YEAR?

I got introduced to the idea of a gap year a few years ago, and thanks to that, I have been able to motivate myself through high school.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO TAKE A GAP YEAR?

After 13 years in the classroom I think its time to take a break and do something different.

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Alexandra at the beach

WHAT SKILL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED TO LEARN?

In the beginning, I was most excited about learning more within my fields of interest for film, photography, architecture and creative development. But I must admit that Winterline’s vision has changed my mind. Among many other “skills” I am so excited to overcome my fear of heights and take the SCUBA certificate; something I would never do if I did not participate in the program.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE?

No specific idea. In my dream job, no days will be equal. There I will have the opportunity to make a difference by creating something using creativity and innovative solutions.

HAVE YOU TRAVELED BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH TRIP HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE AND WHY?

I have been traveling in Europe with my family, friends and classmates. Last summer I traveled to the US for the first time. My American friend took me to big cities and small communities. It didn’t take long before I fell in love with the country, the friendly people and the beautiful nature. The relaxed and welcoming culture influenced me and is a major reason why it was the best tour I’ve been on.

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Visiting New York City

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO GAIN FROM YOUR GAP YEAR PROGRAM AND WHILE TRAVELING ABROAD?

I hope I get a lot of good experience and memories that I can bring with me for the rest of my life. I look forward to getting to know people from all over the world and seeing places I have only seen in pictures. Also, I hope I will be fluent in English.

WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WANT YOUR FUTURE WINTERLINE PEERS TO KNOW ABOUT YOU?

I am always ready for an adventure!

WHY WINTERLINE?

That’s not even a question. Winterline offers the most exciting, educational, fun, adventurous, efficient, unique, innovative, well-executed global gap year program in the world. During high school, I spent countless hours searching for things to do and places to visit on my gap year. I wanted to get as much out of the year as possible. When I discovered Winterline, I thought it was too good to be true. All I dream of experiencing, seeing and learning (and so much more) are combined in one program. I can’t wait for this to start.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN ABOUT YOU!

I am straight as a flagpole, thanks to the metal rail that goes through my spine. It’s going to be fun to go through all the security controls.

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Exploring!

Every Type of Student

When I meet students and parents at gap year fairs, I get asked this question a lot. “What kind of student joins a Winterline program?” Having been a Field Advisor for the 2017-18 programming year, I have first hand knowledge as to what kind of students we have join us for such a journey. The answer is very simple.

Every type of student.

Whether you’ve had an opportunity to travel extensively or have only experienced your hometown, Winterline will show you how to be a traveler. If you’re right on track with college, but are just dog tired of school and lack excitement for learning, Winterline will give you experiences to learn from, not books and classrooms. If the thought of going off to college alone scares you, believe me, Winterline will prepare you for that too. No matter the reason, Winterline attracts students due to the vast array of skills taught by reputable partner organizations, the countries they visit and immerse themselves into, and the people and cultures they meet along the way. It’s hard to narrow down a specific type of student, because there really isn’t one for Winterline! Below I’ve done my best to highlight some of the most common students we get on our program! If any of these sound like you, you’ve definitely come to the right place!

  1. You want to understand other people, cultures, and places. You’ll visit 10+ countries on our 9-month Global Skills program. It may seem like we jump around from country to country, but our program stays in Costa Rica and India for close to a month. I found that my students grew tremendously in our first trimester, specifically because of the allotted time in Costa Rica, between scuba certification, living in dorm-style housing for 10 days in the rainforest, staying in homestays for a week while working alongside local community members, the list really does go on! You’ll live in homestays while learning a skill of your choice in Monteverde. Maybe you’ll harness up and build bridges up in the treelines to support sloth migration to neighboring trees. Maybe your homestay family will invite you to their wedding anniversary. What’s guaranteed is a true experience with real people doing real-life activities.

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    Exploring the temples in Thailand
  2. You want an academic component. We offer 9 optional college credits through Western Colorado University that allow students to stay on track for college. Credits correlate with a few specific skills on our program. Once that associated skill is completed, the student writes an essay about the learning experience. Along with credit, students also get certified in scuba, Wilderness First Aid, and receive certificates of completion from a few other skills. Examples of these include safe driving at the BMW Driving Experience in Munich and cooking and etiquette at the Paul Debrule French Cooking School in Cambodia. Lastly, all of the skills are experiential learning, so as long as you are engaged throughout the program, you’ll leave Winterline with a much stronger understanding of careers, the world, and yourself!

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    Business students working on a gap year
  3. You want an internship of sorts. Our Independent Study Projects (click this link and scroll to the bottom to find the interactive map!) are great opportunities to try something before really pursuing it full on. Each one is designed to give you more options and to hone in on a skill of your choosing, either with a small group of students from your cohort, or by yourself. For the third trimester independent project, students plan out a travel itinerary, learn how to budget, create emergency action plans, and vet partners and accommodations. This process takes part throughout the program in order to prepare them for their one week solo travel in a European country of their choice to learn a skill of their choosing. By the time the third trimester comes around, our students are expert travelers, so it’s your final hurrah to showcase what you’ve learned from your time with us! Plus, you will have countless opportunities to network with the organizations and companies that teach you these 100+ skills. A lot of them offer internships of their own!

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    Meagan partnered with the Austrian National Council for her Independent Study Project (ISP)
  4. You want to grow personally. Don’t feel ready for college? Have zero clue what you want to major in? Not even planning to go to college? Haven’t had an opportunity to explore much outside of your hometown or country? You’ll literally see the world on Winterline by visiting at least 10 countries. While you explore other cultures, cuisines, and terrain, you’ll be taught skills by reputable companies and organizations, such as Earthenable, ThinkImpact, and Rancho Mastatal.
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    New friends hanging out in Panama

    You won’t be nervous getting a random roommate in the dorms at college after living and traveling with 12-16 students throughout the program! Everything from tents to hotels, hostels to guest houses, even homestays; you will learn to live with others in every travel environment. Sometimes you’ll be in charge of cleanup after dinner. Sometimes you’ll have to go find a local laundromat in order to have a fresh bag of clothes again. By the time the 9 months are over, you’ll have gained confidence and independence in a multitude of ways.

  5. You’re burnt out. We get it. You’ve made it through a lot of schooling at this point and the last thing you want to do is sit in another uncomfortable classroom desk. School doesn’t leave much room for self-exploration and self-guided learning. On a Winterline program, you’ll have very minimal time in the classroom and way more experience out in the field getting hands-on with your skills. Trekking in the Himalayas while learning about disaster medicine, cooking classes in Thailand, finding out how mosaic tiles are really made and trying your hand at your very own in the heart of Venice. Winterline allows students to try new skills that they may have never had the opportunity to take part in prior to a gap year – or maybe ever again in their life!

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    Learning in nature’s classroom
  6. You want to make a difference. Though Winterline does not offer volunteer projects, our students are supporting communities they visit through cultural immersion and understanding, as well as taking part in social innovation skills with one of our partners, ThinkImpact. These skills are learned during their time in Panama, South Africa, and Rwanda, covering social innovation topics ranging from clean energy and health care to urban agriculture and wildlife conservation. Plus, my favorite part of South Africa is the opportunity our students have to really connect with the culture through students their age! All of the skills our students learn will be side by side with local South African students to gain a better cultural understanding of what it’s like living and growing up in South Africa. In Rwanda, students take part in their 2nd trimester independent study project, collaborating with the community that their homestay resides in.

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    Learning sustainability at Rancho Mastatal

Winterline really caters to a well rounded experience so that students not only dive deeper into something they’re specifically passionate about, but equally as important, they experience a variety of other topics to broaden their perspectives and passions in life. It’s impossible for a student to go through our program without having gained any skills or growth from their time exploring the globe. What I witnessed by the end of my cohort’s gap year was that many students started the program in one of the categories above, but graduated with a new sense of what they want from life, from their education, and from themselves. So, what kind of student are you? And what are you waiting for?